THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Saturday, November 18, 1995 TAG: 9511180074 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, ENTERTAINMENT WRITER LENGTH: Long : 175 lines
BOND, JAMES BOND, was sitting at the next table.
Actually, it was Brosnan, Pierce Brosnan, but as of Friday, the difference is nil. The dimpled, lean Irishman, once TV's ``Remington Steele,'' is 007 in ``Goldeneye.''
That's what a nervous United Artists hopes, anyway. The studio is betting $55 million that the movie will revive a 33-year-old tradition. More than 2 billion people - nearly half the world's population - have seen at least one of the 16 previous films. It is the most successful franchise in history, but the last entry, 1989's ``License to Kill,'' was a disappointment at the box office.
Now, Bond is making a bold bid to enter the '90s.
Dressed in a black velvet blazer, Brosnan looked every inch the dapper hero as he leaned over to plant a kiss on the cheek of Izabella Scorupco, the Polish beauty who is his leading lady in ``Goldeneye.''
The scene was the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Brosnan, out of character, did not order a vodka martini, shaken not stirred. Instead, he had a beer. He was soon joined by Keeley Shaye-Smith, a journalist he has been dating for a year.
Just as they were leaving for dinner, a fan approached and asked for an autograph. ``You're the new James Bond, aren't you?'' the man asked. ``Could you sign it with both names?'' Brosnan beamed.
The next morning, Brosnan acknowledged that ``Goldeneye'' is the realization of a lifelong dream. ``Well, I finally got to make the movie, didn't I?'' he quipped.
This is Brosnan's second chance at playing Bond. He was signed to do ``The Living Daylights'' in 1987, but NBC, in a last-minute bit of opportunism, demanded another season of ``Remington Steele.'' Even though the series had been canceled, the network brass changed their minds when they realized the new James Bond was under con-tract.
Scheduling conflicts forced the producers to drop Brosnan and give the role to Timothy Dalton.
``I was shattered,'' Brosnan said. ``It was sheer spite on the part of NBC. The TV series was over until they changed their mind for no reason other than the fact I had this movie deal.
``I thought it was the end of the world, but, looking back today, it all happened for the best. I was too young for the part back then. Today, I'm a bit wiser and have a few more scars on the soul.''
``Goldeneye'' - the title is taken from the name of the Jamaican home of Bond creator Ian Fleming - is largely regarded as a go-for-broke outing. The two Dalton films didn't catch fire and were criticized for being too heavy and violent.
``I know I have this one chance to get it right,'' Brosnan said. ``I feel a great responsibility to the role. There are big shoes to fill. Sean Connery is the man I kept seeing when I looked over my shoulder.''
``Goldfinger,'' the third film in the Bond series, was the first movie he saw in Technicolor. Brosnan was 11 years old, just arrived from Ireland to live with his mother in London.
``I saw it on Aug. 12, 1964, the day Ian Fleming died,'' he said. ``I remember that I, maybe, liked Oddjob better than Bond. At the time, I wanted more to be Clint Eastwood. At age 11, I was still something of a loner. I wanted to be the man with no name.''
In the new film, Bond battles Russian gangsters who try to shut down the world's financial center with a space weapon system. ``Goldeneye'' also recasts Bond in his original image. Brosnan isn't concerned that that might not fit with the politically correct 1990s.
``That was tried during the Timothy Dalton reign, and the character was not well served,'' he said. ``The man is a sexist. It's that simple. The audience knows that. They want him to bed the women and win the day.
``We have a 33-year-old franchise here, and we're best to stick with it. My goal was to keep it lean and mean - treat it seriously but play it lightly.''
``Modern audiences like a hero who doesn't need therapy,'' Brosnan said. ``Bond knows who he is.''
Despite the fact that many polls showed Brosnan as the favorite to play the new James Bond, he was by no means a sure bet to get the role.
Barbara Broccoli, daughter of famed Bond producer Cubby Broccoli, said other actors were considered, including Dalton. ``Timothy decided to give the role up, the same way Sean and Roger (Moore) did,'' she said. ``He wanted to bow out gracefully.''
Among the names mentioned were Ralph Fiennes, Mel Gibson, Hugh Grant and Liam Neeson. Broccoli said she only talked with Fiennes.
``The surprising thing is that the part is very difficult to cast,'' she said. ``It couldn't be played by an American. Contrary to the rumors, we were pleased with Timothy in the part. He is suing a British publication which printed that he was sacked from the job. He wasn't.''
Director Martin Campbell believes Brosnan will be the first to play the Bond character as Fleming wrote it.
``Everyone's favorite Bond is Sean Connery, but Sean never got away from the blue-collar background,'' Campbell said. ``I think Pierce does have class. This is a man who is cool and at home in a tux. Pierce has the charm the part needs, and he can deliver the humor. We wanted, too, a slightly harder edge here.
``Roger (Moore) almost winked at the camera when he was playing the part. He was so completely tongue-in-cheek, and enmeshed in the gimmickry, that it wasn't taken seriously at all. Roger, though, is a great friend of the Broccoli family and supported Pierce.
``Timothy, as fine an actor as he is, couldn't deliver the humor. He was too angry and aggressive about the whole thing. His interpretation was too dark.''
Brosnan finds it particularly ironic that Bond is a widower. (He was married to Tracy Vicenzo, played by Diana Rigg, in ``On Her Majesty's Secret Service.'') Brosnan was widowed a few years ago when his wife, actress Casandra Harris, died after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer.
``I wish Cassie were here today to see all that is happening,'' he said. ``She would be so pleased. I wanted to get this film right, in her memory.''
The actor talks frequently about his late wife, who played Countess Lisi in the Bond film ``For Your Eyes Only.'' He's raising their 12-year-old son, Sean. He also has two stepchildren, Charlotte, 23, and Chris, 22.
``Sean's my biggest critic,'' Brosnan said. `He always approves or disapproves of my dates. Sean made a tiny appearance in the movie. Charlotte is now out there pounding the street trying to get jobs as an actress. It's kind of the family business.''
Brosnan doesn't talk so much about his own beginnings. He was an infant when his father walked out on the family. His mother left him with his grandparents when he was 3; Brosnan didn't see her again for eight years.
``I've come to grips with my early life,'' he said. ``I've seen my father only once. He visited the set when I was filming a `Remington Steele' in Ireland. I'm now friends with my mother. I was a loner as a child. I used to imagine that my mother was away, working as a missionary in Africa. Actually, she was a nurse in London.''
Until ``Goldeneye,'' his film career has not amounted to much. His one box-office hit was 1992's ``The Lawnmower Man.''
Right now, however, expectations are high for ``Goldeneye.'' Anything less than a $100 million gross will be considered a disappointment. Brosnan realizes that if the film fails, it may be the end of Bond.
``Just think,'' he said. ``I'll be known as the man who finally killed James Bond. And they'll say everywhere that it took an Irishman to do it.'' MEMO: TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF BOND VILLAINS
Just for fun, test your knowledge of the Bond baddies. Match the
villains (numbers) with the actor and film (letters) in which he, or
she, gave 007 a rough time. Of course, we all know who won.
1. Dr. Julius
2. Xenia Onatopp
4. Ernst Stavro Blofeld
5. Prince Kamal Khan
8. Mr. Big
9. Red Grant
10. May Day
11. Franz Sanchez
13. Hugo Drax
14. Max Zorin
15. Emilio Largo
A. Louis Jourdan in ``Octopussy''
B. Christopher Walken in ``A View to a Kill''
C. Jeroen Krabbe in ``The Living Daylights''
D. Michel Lonsdale in ``Moonraker''
E. Donald Pleasence in ``You Only Live Twice,'' Telly Savalas in
On Her Majesty's Secret Service'' and Charles Gray in
Diamonds Are Forever''
F. Yaphet Kotto in ``Live and Let Die''
G. Christopher Lee in ``The Man with the Golden Gun.''
H. Joseph Wiseman in ``Dr. No''
I. Adolfo Celi in ``Thunderball''
J. Harold Sakata in ``Goldfinger''
K. Grace Jones in ``A View to a Kill''
L. Robert Davi in ``License to Kill''
M. Robert Shaw in ``From Russia With Love''
N. Famke Jansssen in ``Goldeneye''
O. Richard Kiel in ``The Spy Who Loved Me''
Here are the answers to the quiz on villains in James Bond movies:
1. H; 2. N; 3. J; 4. E; 5. A; 6. C; 7. O; 8. F; 9. M; 10. K; 11. L;
12. G; 13. D; 14. B; 15. I ILLUSTRATION: Color photos